Valkyria Chronicles 4 Review
Published on May 8, 2018
Release Date: March 21, 2018 (JP;PS4), 2018 (Worldwide; PS4, Switch, Xbox One)
Platforms: PS4, Nintendo Switch (Worldwide); Xbox One (NA/PAL) (Played on PS4)
Releasing nearly ten years after the original entry, Valkyria Chronicles 4 continues the trend Sega has set for their other anniversary titles, such as Sonic Generations and Yakuza Kiwami. Instead of the more action-based RPG gameplay introduced in Valkyria Revolution, they’ve decided to return to the familiar turn-based tactical RPG that it originally became known for. It blends the feel of the first game with many of the improvements made in the two follow-up handheld titles while introducing additional features of its own that lets the player have more freedom than ever before.
Once again the story is based on the fictional continent of Europa, in which the Eastern Imperial Alliance seeks to conquer all while the Atlantic Federation stand resolute in defending their homeland. The main character of focus is Claude Wallace, commander of Squad E. He and a strike force led by the Edinburgh Army embark on Operation Northern Cross in an attempt to launch a counter-offensive that will hopefully stifle the offensive by capturing the Imperial capital of Schwartzgrad.
Overall, the story is relatively standard and hits many of the tropes often seen in World War 2 era films and games. In a bizarre contrast, the characters on both sides come in every flavor of anime personality possible. This mixture allows for incredibly dramatic, sometimes slightly unsettling material to be immediately be followed up by silly exchanges that leave characters delightfully embarrassed. It all blends pretty well, keeping the game’s generous amount of cutscenes interesting in between maps.
Most of the cutscenes proceed like a visual novel, with character models shooting out voiced dialogue to one another, going through repeated facial expressions and animations as the text box at the bottom fills with text. There are a handful of cutscenes using the in-game graphics and a few rare instances where pre-rendered scenes occur. It’s unfortunate that so much of the game’s story and dialogue happens using the first style since the in-game cutscenes are relatively well-animated, but limiting their use does help to accentuate the more pivotal moments of the game.
Multiple opportunities arise to view backstories and side stories for both the major and minor characters, which help to give the supporting soldiers in Squad E a small time to shine with conversational cutscenes and a small sortie. Although none of them are required for main story completion, they’re a pleasant diversion from the main story and provide additional content to go through.
Going into battle, everything will be immediately familiar to those who have played any other entry in the series. A mission briefing occurs, giving the player a rundown of the goal before revealing the list of victory and defeat conditions. After that, the preparations screen lets you make selections on what units to bring and what weapons to equip. Commencing the battle, a small cutscene of Claude plays commanding the forces, and the battle map interface is entered.
The basic premise of a turn is that you, the commander, receive a number of Command Points (CP), which allows you to perform move and attack actions with a unit or to issue orders, which are essentially different effects you can provide to one or multiple units. Every unit has an orange bar that represents their Action Points (AP), which depletes as they move in action mode; attacking is free. Moving and one attack costs a single CP, regardless of unit type. The same unit can perform multiple action modes as long as CP allows, but they do receive an increasing AP penalty every time they are reselected. The amount of AP a unit has depends on their role, with the more frontline units (Scout, Shocktrooper) having more freedom of movement while the fire support units (Lancer, Sniper) are much more limited. A turn ends when all CP is depleted, or the turn is willingly ended. CP that is not used will be retained for the next turn following the enemy movement phase, which allows for forward-thinking.
The enemy is similarly bound by the CP system, but the AI has some limitations to not make the game as brutal as it could be. The enemy will never move the same basic unit more than once in one turn, which often means you can have units taken down low by an enemy, but they won’t attempt to finish them off by spending another CP on the same unit. It eliminates some of the need to leave your army in a more strategic location if you know it can face tank the one attack from an enemy. There are rare instances where it will send a unit to run directly into your unit’s field of vision and get destroyed without accomplishing anything by your unit’s “overwatch” attack, which is a small-caliber weapon units and vehicles that will automatically attack moving units in their attack area. Other than that, the AI does a decent job of choosing to move units that can do something and will make smart decisions attacking things.
General improvements have been made to the battle system that reduces a lot of the flaws seen in the first game. One of the major flaws was that it was difficult to utilize your full force since it was incredibly costly to move them all. This resulted in generally taking longer to get through a map than just moving a couple units through the entire map. A returning feature from the handheld titles is the Armored Personnel Carrier, which can carry multiple units using only a single CP in the process. A new mechanic added to the series is the Direct Command action. This allows you to, once per turn, have a main character select a couple of soldiers to run them during their action. They will move the full distance of the commanding character, allowing you to move three characters at the price of one!
Additionally, the Grenadier is a new soldier class added to the game that offers battlefield support through the use of mortar. They have very low mobility and are very fragile, but can be equipped to be very powerful against either infantry or vehicles. During the enemy phase, they provide very long ranged overwatch attacks as long as allies have a line of sight of the unit, dealing damage and applying temporary debuffs. Enemy grenadiers are often placed in diabolical locations, making charging in a huge risk. The Grenadier, along with some general balance adjustments, did a good job of making the Scout less of a one-man army and the other classes’ strengths have more reason to be utilized to complete maps efficiently.
Regarding presentation, the game from a graphics and sound perspective is remarkably similar to the VC1 PC release from a few years back. One of the most noticeable things is that explosions and flame particle effects look very dated. Despite that, VC4 continues to have good character and area design. Battlefields have a good variety, with forests, tundras, and urban settings to name a few. There are subtle little details sprinkled in the map design, like how units and vehicles leave tracks in the snow and explosions to leave small impressions in the ground.
Scenarios are varied enough that they all feel decently unique and keep the game from becoming a repetitive slog. The game remains pretty easy up to about halfway through the game, at which point it makes a very sudden spike in difficulty that will likely catch you off guard, but is also welcomed. You can replay scenarios to grind experience and money, but it is in no way a requirement to get through the game since the game puts more value in smart decisions than levels or gear. With minimal optional content completed and only repeating a couple of maps for an S-rank, the game took around 35 hours to complete.
Whether you’re a fan of the series and have been patiently waiting for a new entry or if you’re interested in getting into the series for the first time, Valkyria Chronicles 4 represents the series well and should be looked forward to when it releases worldwide in later 2018.